The 200 Foot Rule on Vermont’s Lakes and Ponds

Lake Iroquois

What is the 200 Foot Rule on Vermont’s Lakes and Ponds?

When boating on Vermont waters, you must adhere to the 200-foot rule. “What is that?” “How can I judge that distance when in the water?” To answer those questions, let’s start with stating the purpose of rules.

The Department of Environmental Conservation in the Agency of Natural Resources has said:

“The State of Vermont regulates the use of public waters with the intent to allow all Vermonters and visitors to use these shared resources in a reasonable manner. However, some public water uses have the potential to conflict with other uses, especially on waterbodies where space is limited. The Use of Public Waters (UPW) rules were developed to avoid and resolve conflicts and to protect normal or designated uses on all lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. The UPW rules were established with consideration of the interests of current and future generations of lake users and to ensure that natural resource values of public waters are fully protected.”

These rules were adopted on October 5, 1994 and apply to all Vermont lakes and ponds. The complete set of the Use of Public Water Rules is available here. Also, you can refer to Section 3 10 V.S.A. § 1424 for the entire list and exceptions.

The 200-foot rule basically states that boats cannot travel at a speed greater than 5MPH within 200 feet of shore, the “Shoreline Safety Zone”, or closer than 200 feet from a person, another water vessel in the water, or a diver down flag.

Judging 200 Feet

Judging 200 feet in the water can be tough. If in a boat, you can perhaps judge 200 feet by knowing the length of your boat and extrapolating from there. Maybe! Several years ago, a lady, who was well marked with bathing cap and large floatation device was hit by a ski boat within 20 feet of shore. She suffered major injuries, but recovered. Lucky! It should never have happened. Since then, every year, her husband places several flotation markers around the lake at 200 feet. They are well marked: “ 200’ ”. Boaters respect those markers. Perhaps such markers should be installed on every Vermont lake and pond. This does not address confrontations in the middle of the water body, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Estimating the distance between your boat and the shoreline or another vessel can be difficult. If you are unsure of the distance, it is always best to give the shoreline and other vessels a wide berth, and slow down!

Enforcement of the Use of Public Waters Rules

From the DEC:

Vermont State Police - Marine Division

Vermont State Police – Marine Division

“The Use of Public Waters rules are enforced by The Vermont State Police, Marine Division. Issues or concerns relating to violations of these rules should be reported to the Vermont police.  You may also contact the local game warden, as they partner with the police on these issues. Game wardens and police suggest documenting and reporting suspected violations of the UPW rules with video and photos, registration numbers of boats, a description of the activity in conflict with the UPW rules, and the date and time.”

Additional Resources